From Covid Slayer to World’s Top Thinker of 2020, Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja is Such a Boss


From Covid Slayer to World’s Top Thinker of 2020, Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja is Such a Boss

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Politicians across the world have had a hard time adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Kerala’s Health Minister KK Shailaja is the rare exception, a politician who has seemed to go from strength to strength during the pandemic, garnering praise both at home and abroad. After being felicitated by the United Nations on Public Service Day in June, Shailaja is now No 1 on the list of “The World’s Top 50 Thinkers for the Covid-19 Age”, published by Prospect, a magazine from the United Kingdom. The rankings were determined by a vote among Prospect’s readers and contributors, with over 20,000 ballots being cast before Shailaja emerged as the winner.

Prospect’s announcement of its list saw them lavish extensive praise on Shailaja, picking up on her deft handling of the 2018 Nipah outbreak as a precursor to her efficacy in fighting Covid-19. “When Covid-19 was still “a China story” in January, she not only accurately foresaw its inevitable arrival, but also fully grasped the implications,” they wrote, ending with “And hopefully Shailaja’s masterclass in public administration will boost the odds in the next and more difficult phase.”

Shailaja is India’s sole representative in Prospect’s list, so it’s just as well that she’s at the very top. The next two spots are taken by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum. The list was an exercise in identifying those thinkers who have best adapted to the new framework of the pandemic, writing that “the mood called for thinking of a different sort—less chin-stroking, more hands on.”

Shailaja’s achievement is yet another feather in the cap of the health minister, whose “Test, Trace, and Isolate” policy combined with her open communication and consistent messaging have already been praised by leaders worldwide looking for an effective containment model. And with a fresh wave of international recognition coming her way, KK Shailaja’s reputation as the “Covid slayer” continues to grow.